secondhand embarrassment: a haiku

mortified, you watch
metaphorical train wrecks
without an escape.

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Jogging isn’t a euphemism.

Last Sunday, I went jogging for the first time in over a year. As if Mondays weren’t terrible enough, I was incredibly sore. Though I was moving extremely slowly, I got to work on time.

My coworker Charlie walked into the kitchen as I grabbed my coffee cup from the cabinet. He’s in his sixties but wears a Michael Jordan-style earring and a chain. His kids aren’t much older than me, so he’s more informed about music and technology than most of my coworkers.

“Mornin’, Sam!”

“Good morning, Charlie!”

“How was your weekend?”

“Pretty good.”

I waddled to the coffee machine and shifted uncomfortably as my coffee brewed. Charlie gave me a knowing look.

Mm-hm. Seems like it was.”

“I went jogging!”

Sure ya did.”

“My legs are dead because I haven’t gone jogging in a year!”

“I ain’t hatin’.”

“But –”

“At least someone around here is gettin’ some!”

“Jogging isn’t a euphemism for getting laid!”

“No need to be embarrassed! You’ve gotta enjoy your youth!”

“It’s not that, I –”

“Once ya hit menopause, you’ll rarely wanna go jogging with your man!”

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction (also known as fics).

Even before that, I wrote hilariously bad Gilmore girls fics. In my defense, it was middle school. I knew nothing about keeping characters’ voices true to themselves or what high schoolers’ lives were actually like. Rory Gilmore’s world was as foreign to me as Harry Potter’s. Despite encouraging reviews, I took the Gilmore girls fics down from my fanfiction.net profile.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic fangirl. During my Gilmore girls phase, I had a wall in my bedroom with magazine pages featuring the cast and a giant collage I made. While I began reading the Harry Potter books in fourth grade, I didn’t start writing fics until high school.

Oftentimes, fans write fics in anticipation of the next installment of a series (to predict what’s going to happen next) or to rewrite moments they found to be unsatisfactory. Typically, I wrote fics for the former reason. I never wrote the plot-driven fics; instead, I always focused on the ships I supported. In fandom terms, a “ship” is a relationship that you support (thus making you a shipper).

I wrote my first Harry Potter fic during junior year of high school, before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published. Like many fans, I was (and still am) a Ron and Hermione shipper. At lunch, I brainstormed ideas with my fellow Harry Potter fangirls (and fanboy) friends Gaby, Daniel, and Becca. I ended up writing sixteen chapters and over 65,000 words. Almost a decade later, people are still reviewing the fic and adding it to their favorites.

Any time I get discouraged about writing, I remind myself of two things:

  1. I wrote a silly Ron/Hermione fic in high school that got 854 reviews.
  2. If E.L. James could get published by rewriting a Twilight fic as Fifty Shades of Grey, I will get published by writing an awesome original book.

How to be a good girl

Thirteen

The first (and most important) rule in the good girls’ code was simple.

“Don’t have sex.”

Not because of health risks, the possibility of pregnancy, or emotional ineptitude.

“Because good girls wait until marriage.”

“Correct, anak. If you don’t have respect for yourself, a man certainly won’t.”

“What if you’re engaged? You and your future husband love and are committed to each other, so why can’t you do it then?”

“If you’re waited all that time, it’s sayang to have sex then.”

“But if you’re going to be together forever anyway, then how is it a waste?”

“Just listen to me, I know from experience.”

Eighteen

Being your mother’s best friend meant being privy to things a daughter should never have to know. Compartmentalizing had become second nature. While Mom would confide in me constantly, I knew better than to tell her everything.

“Anak, last time I was here, the salespeople kept bothering me.”

“It’s Victoria’s Secret, Mom. I’m pretty sure they get paid on commission.”

“They kept following me around the store, asking to help me find what I was looking for.”

“That’s their job.”

“Why are they so nosy, anyway?”

“Why do you care if they know what you’re buying? What did you need, a new bra?”

“Well, I was looking for crotch-less panties.”

Silently, I cursed scientists for pursuing worthwhile research instead of creating brain bleach.

“They don’t sell those anymore. You’ll have to buy them online at from a different company.”

Twenty-five

Setting boundaries with my mother became increasingly difficult from college onward. She claimed she wanted to know about my life, yet overreacted whenever I was upfront.

“I just wish you could be happy for me.”

“I’m supposed to be happy you lost your virginity to your boyfriend?”

“I didn’t.”

“God! All those years I talked to you, you never heard me.”

“No, Mom. I listened, I just don’t agree with you.”

“It’s because of your friends, isn’t it? They’re all having premarital sex, so you wanted to be like them!”

“I think it’s sad that you think I’m worthless because of the status of my hymen. I’m still me.”

“You always said you would wait until you were married, like I did.”

“Yet you still harass Dad about his ex-girlfriends from thirty years ago.”

“So you’re mocking me and my choices?”

“Maybe it would’ve been good for you to date and sleep with other people.”

“Insolent child.”

“I’m not a child anymore. I haven’t been for a long time.”